Taking August Seriously

TOULOUSE – Europe’s holiday month of August is no time for serious politics. The world and its worries are meant to close down while Europeans repose.

I usually spend the month with my family at our old converted farmhouse in southwestern France. It is the deepest countryside. As I write this under a vine in my vegetable garden, I look west across wooded hills and cannot see another building.

In our hamlet, there is one small working farm, a couple of holiday houses and the ruins of seven or eight other houses. A century ago, this would have been a community of more than 50 people. Today, there are two full-time residents, the farmer and her elderly mother. Otherwise, the inhabitants are vacation visitors.

Progress in France brought a fairly recent migration from country to town. “How is it,” a local pig farmer asked me a few a years ago, “that we locals all want to get out of here, and you northern  European city dwellers want to buy up our old farmhouses and move in?” It is a part, I suppose, of the urban, middle-class northern European dream – the pursuit of the sun by day and silence by night.